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Travel Tip: Custom Packing List

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on April 22, 2015

Packing for family travel? A packing checklist can save your sanity--and your vacation. Now it's easy to make a custom online checklist with the Universal Packing List.

An interactive Web page, UPL asks for basic travel information--dates, family members, activities, weather--and generates a comprehensive custom list to guide packing for family travel. Print it out, and you'll never again forget the sunblock!

Universal Packing List

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Declutter 101: Strategies To Cut Clutter

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on April 19, 2015

Taking aim on the household clutter problem, you've resolved to work slowly and steadily, and you've carved out blocks of time to declutter.

Now what? And how?

Time to consider weigh in with specific methods and strategies for decluttering.

These tried-and-tested methods bring different strengths to the fight against clutter. Choose the one that's right for you and your family.

Forcing Decisions: The Four-Box Method

Clutter is evidence of many things: poor habits, lack of organization, sentimental attachment, too much stuff. But, at bottom, each item of clutter is a decision delayed.

The mail arrives, replete with circulars and junk mail and catalogs. "Oh, I'll go through that later!" whispers the clutter monster, deferring the simple decision to cull and toss the unwanted paper.

The Four-Box method forces a decision, item by item. To apply it, gather three boxes and a large trash can. Label the boxes, "Put Away", "Give Away/Sell" and "Storage." Items to be thrown away belong in the trash can.

Take the four boxes to the declutter area. One at a time, pick up each piece of clutter. Ask yourself, "Do I want to put this away in another place, donate it (or sell it at a yard sale), store it, or throw it away?" You may not release your grip on the item until you have made a decision.

At the end of the decluttering session, reserve 10 to 15 minutes to empty the boxes. Put Away items are put in more appropriate places. Give Away/Sell items should be stored outside the house, in a garage, or in the trunk of the car for drop-off at a charity donation center. As each Storage box fills, make a brief inventory of the contents and put the box into the storage area. Finally, empty the trash can quickly to prevent second thoughts!

The Four Box method will work for anyone, in any declutter mode. Use it to clear a shelf or drawer each day, or apply it as part of a whole-house weekend assault on clutter. By forcing a decision, it will serve you well as you cull clutter from the home.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Box and Banish

Box and Banish is an alternative to the Four Box method. Where the Four Box method nibbles away at clutter bit-by-bit, Box and Banish is a drastic, clear-it-out effort that transports clutter away from living areas, to be dealt with later.

Box and Banish is simple. Gather all clutter from counters, drawers, chairs, tables, floors, ovens, and bathtubs. Place the clutter into boxes or bags, and stack it somewhere outside the living area. Work until all surfaces are clear and clutter free.

Next step: open each box or bag of clutter, one at a time. As with the Four Box method, decide whether each item inside should be thrown away, put away, given away or sold, or stored. In extreme cases, declutterers have been known to throw away Box and Banish boxes, sight unseen!

Box and Banish has one big advantage and two big disadvantages as a declutter method.

On the plus side, Box and Banish creates instant results. Often, impending guests or other emergencies force a version of Box and Banish upon the cluttered household. Clearing clutter quickly sparks enthusiasm and motivation.

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On the minus side, energies often flag before the Box and Banish declutterer reaches the end of the boxed clutter. The effort stalls, the clutter remains, aging gently in the bags and boxes as it becomes surrounded by new layers of clutter.

In a worst-case scenario, the need for some Boxed-and-Banished item can trigger formation of Mt. Cluttermore, as the frantic searcher upends each carefully boxed hillock of clutter, looking for the single missing item. Result: you're worse off than when you began!

The second disadvantage? While Box and Banish can create an instant absence of apparent clutter, the method does nothing to change the underlying problem. More gradual decluttering methods go hand-in-hand with other components of getting organized: building new habits, organizing stored items, creating new household routines. Box and Banish, for many, is a mere cosmetic quick-fix--and it won't lead to the permanent changes you need to banish clutter for good.

Still, if you're fiercely motivated and determined to complete the declutter process, Box and Banish is an option that jumpstarts organization efforts with fast results.

Ellen's Penicillin Method

Often, decluttering efforts chase their tails in an endless loop. The home manager declutters the small table in the hallway and moves on. By the following week, a whole new species of clutter has returned to the cleared area.

The Penicillin method, devised by online declutterer Ellen in MN, uses a Petri dish metaphor to get a grip on clutter. Imagine a Petri dish full of fuzzy brown mold spores. A researcher begins to apply small drops of penicillin to the dish. Each little drop clears a small circular area; soon, drop upon drop, the entire dish is cleared of the distasteful intruder.

So, too, with the Penicillin method of decluttering. Today, the declutterer clears the kitchen table. From this point, no matter how bad the clutter becomes elsewhere, the kitchen table is inoculated with Penicillin. Daily clutter checks make sure no clutter is permitted to return.

Next declutter session, the declutterer attacks the top of the buffet. Thinking "Penicillin!", that clear space joins the kitchen table. Soon, the cleared areas link up, banishing clutter from the entire house.

By devoting declutter energies to retaining the Penicillin effect of each declutter session, the Penicillin method focuses the declutterer on prevention. The method is useful, creative, and works well to bring an entire house under control.

Closet-Go-Round: Whole House Declutter

Sometimes, you simply have to re-invent the wheel. Perhaps you realize, three years into a new house, that household storage needs a complete overhaul. Remodeling, a child's departure for college, or birth of a new baby can all signal a need for a whole-house declutter.

Call it the Closet-Go-Round. It's a two-part process of identifying and assigning storage, while at the same time decluttering and revamping existing areas in the home.

Like a merry-go-round, the Closet-Go-Round turns out, sorts out and relocates all the storage functions of the home. In the initial stage, you'll identify storage needs and match them to available storage areas, regardless of what's being stored where at the moment.

Once you know what should go where, the active phase begins. You will need boxes, lots of them, and time--quite a bit of time. Starting at the front door, move from room to room placing boxes in front of each storage area: cabinets, drawers, closets, and shelves.

Then begin at the beginning once more. Start, for example, at the table in the hall. Remove any and all items from the table that are not assigned there: gloves, mail, keys, change, handbags. Place them in your box.

When the table is empty, except for the vase of flowers that belongs there, circle the house with your catch. Gloves are placed in the box before the coat closet where they are supposed to live. Mail is dumped into the box in front of the desk area. Handbags and change are delivered to the owner's launch pad area. Items to be thrown away are delivered to the garbage can.

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When the box is empty, move on to the next storage area in the hall: the coat closet. Empty the coat closet of all unassigned items, while adding the gloves to their assigned area. Again, circle the house with your coat closet box, delivering items to the new storage area where each belongs.

As you work, you're sorting and decluttering in two directions. You're removing clutter and improperly-stored items, while collecting and replacing the things which belong in any given area.

A Closet-Go-Round is a big undertaking, and it doesn't work well if performed in fits and starts. Choose this method if you have a block of two or three days to devote to a major declutter. While you'll work hard during that time, a Closet-Go-Round can take giant strides toward a more efficient, easy-to-manage home.

Habit: The Household Wonder Worker

Looking for a way to live an organized life without having to think about it? Imagine the television pitch:

"Special offer! Not sold in stores! The amazing Household Wonder Worker will take your house from chaos to castle in only 21 days. It'll speed your cleaning, calm your chaos and cut your clutter. Don't wait! Get it today--and put our 21-day Household Wonder Worker to work for you!"

You say you have the phone in one hand and a credit card in the other? Sounds that good, does it?

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Free Printable Signs For Garage or Yard Sales

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on April 7, 2015

It's Spring! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing ... and the voice of the yard sale shopper is heard in the land.

Thinking of holding a garage sale or yard sale this year? We've got everything you need to cut your clutter and score some cash with our garage sale tips--but if you're looking for more help, try these free printables for yard sale success:

Printable Yard Sale Checklist and Signs

Printable Garage Sale Signs from PaperPrintouts.com

Free Printable Garage Sale Sign from Hoover Web Design

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Moving On: Tips For An Organized Move

Every year, one in five American families makes a move --- and this year, it'll be your family on the road.

No doubt about it, moving can present the organizational challenge of a lifetime.

Every habit, every routine, every tiny piece of the mosaic of your life is tossed at random into a huge, cluttered van, to be shaken out and reassembled at the other end. 

It's a daunting task--but you can get organized and cut stress when the moving van arrives.

Moving on? Try these road-tested tips for an organized move.

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Freezer Cooking Guide: How To Cook Once, Eat For A Month

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 31, 2015

Are you ready to cook once, eat for a month? Time to try freezer cooking!

The concept of freezer cooking goes by many names. Once-a-month cooking. Frozen assets. OAMC. Meal assembly. Each describes the practice of assembling partially-prepared entrees in bulk for freezer storage.

Made in multiple and needing only reheating or final preparations, freezer meals are an easy way to feed the family fast ... and cheap.

Because you make several meals at once, economies of scale speed cooking chores. Buying in bulk saves money. Home preparation fosters better nutrition.

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Better still, options like "meal assembly franchises" help home cooks build frozen assets quickly.

While pricier than home-prepared freezer meals, a cooking session at a franchise like Dream Dinners® or Super Suppers® can stock the freezer and teach freezer cooking methods to be used at home.

Whether you cook once and eat for a month, sneak up on freezer cooking, or fill the freezer from the meal assembly franchise, get ready to feed the family--fast!---with our complete guide to freezer cooking.

Clean Sweep? The Case Against Spring Cleaning

Spring blows in with warm wind and the promise of ... spring cleaning?

With the coming of spring, even the most casual home managers feel an inexplicable urge to move furniture, clean windows and vacuum baseboards to welcome the return of sunshine and warmer weather.

But is spring cleaning really necessary?

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Garage Sale Tips: Clear Clutter With A Yard Sale

Garage sale, tag sale, yard sale--whatever you call it, the garage or yard sale is part and parcel of the American way of life.

On sunny weekend mornings, slow-moving cars ("I brake for yard sales!") circle suburban neighborhoods as their occupants hunt baby toys and panini makers, auto parts and cocktail shakers.

If you're in active declutter mode, the next stop is your house!

  Read More >>Printables:  seasonal_yard_sale_checklist.pdf seasonal_yard_sale_sign_ahead_arrow.pdf seasonal_yard_sale_sign_right_arrow.pdf seasonal_yard_sale_sign_left_arrow.pdf

Spring Cleaning Chore Checklist

March winds blow, telling us that Spring is on the way!

Warming breezes scour the last of winter from house and garden. Spring rain awakens the earth and calls forth new life.

Meet the rising sap with a new broom. Spring clean indoors and out to prepare home and hearth for the return of warm weather.

Our Spring cleaning chore checklist will help you take care of important seasonal chores and welcome Spring to an organized home.

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Power Tools For An Organized Home

Who among us hasn't squandered a happy afternoon in a store specializing in organizing products?

Drifting from aisle to aisle, we make a mental list: this for the bathroom clutter, that for the computer desk.

All is bliss until we consider the bottom line. Specialty organizers can be costly! Someday, we vow, we'll get organized at home, but for now, budget realities step firmly on organizer dreams.

Stop the presses! Over the years, these top tools have proved their value, and they cost a fraction of the price of specialty products.

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Kids and Chores: Chilling The Chore Wars

When it comes to kids and housework, the blasted terrain is familiar: a dirty house, balky children, and frazzled, frustrated parents.

Tired parents try it all, from chore charts to screaming fits.Canny children engage in housework sabotage, selective hearing or childish irresponsibility to duck assignments.

The noise levels--and stress levels--rise along with the stacks of dishes.

How to negotiate a peace on the issue of children and chores?

Try these family-tested strategies to calm the conflict and gain the goal.

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8 Great Tips To Organize Kids' Rooms

It's the battle cry of millions of parents: "Clean your room!" Will it ring out in your house today?

Seasonal events like birthdays, the holidays or a new school year bring fresh motivation to the drive to get kids organized--and nowhere is the battleground more intense than in the children's bedrooms.

How do you help your child organize and clean up life in the bedroom?

Try these eight easy organization strategies to calm clutter and bring order to kids' rooms.

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What's Your Clutter Personality Type?

It's silent. It's sneaky. It creeps about in corners: clutter! When the state of the house aggravates you to your last nerve, it's tempting to launch an all-out battle in the war against clutter.

First, though, know your enemy!

There are as many reasons for household clutter as there are clutterers. As Pogo says, "We have seen the enemy, and he is us!"

Take aim on your household's clutter problem by going to the root of the problem: your own thinking.

What's your clutter personality ... and which of these internal voices strikes a chord?

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Spring Forward: Safety Checklist for Time Change Sunday

Ready to Spring forward? Time Change Sunday is on the way!

On Sunday, March 8, Daylight Savings Time will begin in most of the United States.

Setting the clock forward means it's time for a seasonal safety check!

As you circle the house, setting clocks ahead, make time for this short safety checklist. It'll see you into Spring from a safe--and organized--home.

  Read More >>Printables:  First Aid Kit Checklist Emergency Information

Paper Chase: The ABCs of Household Paper Management

The tax man cometh ... and he'll be here soon! Do you know where your tax records are?

Chances are, they're swimming in a stack of paper ... somewhere.

Rafts of paper flood into the average home each day.

The mailbox discharges letters and bills and bank statements. Briefcases explode with professional journals, pay stubs and calendars. School backpacks unload children's artwork, meeting notices and sports schedules.

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Changing Seasons: Clothes Closet Declutter

It's the time of the season: Spring is here, and Summer is around the corner.

Are you ready to dress for warmer weather?

A closet clean-out clears the decks for the new season and gives even the most frazzled home manager a feeling of accomplishment.

Whether in the children's closets or in your own, follow these principles for efficient, organized clothing storage.

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Wipe Out! Make Your Own Cleaning Wipes

Who doesn't love commercial cleaning wipes?

They're wickedly convenient--but also wickedly expensive and often contain harsh chemicals.

The alternative: make your own refillable cleaning wipes!

Homemade cleaning wipes are easy to make, economical, and contain only those cleaning agents you select. Use them in the kitchen, the bathroom, or for cleaning windows.

Put homemade cleaning wipes to work for you in your organized home with our easy instructions and cleaning recipes.

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